The Story Of The Vickers VC10

The British-built VC10 was a long-range quadjet introduced in 1964. Only 54 were built, and they served with…

The Story Of The Vickers VC10

The British-built VC10 was a long-range quadjet introduced in 1964. Only 54 were built, and they served with BOAC and the UK RAF, and several African and Middle Eastern airlines. It was a popular and long-lasting aircraft, staying in military service until 2013, and forms an important part of British aviation history.

Only 54 Vickers VC10 were built. Photo: Getty Images

Initial development with the RAF

UK manufacturer Vickers-Armstrong was a military and civilian engineering company, operating from 1927 until 1977. Many of its early airliners were converted from military aircraft, but after the Second World War, it went on to build dedicated passenger aircraft, including the VC1, Vickers Viscount, and Vickers Vanguard.

CAA Vickers Viscount
A Vickers Viscount aircraft in use with Central African Airways in 1957. Photo: Clinton Groves via Wikimedia

The VC-10 was its last passenger aircraft built. It originally took shape as a military project in 1951 with the RAF, with the Vickers 1000 intended as a military transport aircraft. The RAF dropped out of this in 1955, though, after prototypes had been built. And the other potential user (BOAC) was more interested in the de Havilland Comet.

Vickers managing director George Edwards expressed his disappointment at the time, saying:

“We have handed to the Americans, without a struggle, the entire world market for big jet airliners.”

Stay informed:  for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

Demand from BOAC for a new jet

In 1957, BOAC requested a new jet capable of serving its African, Middle Eastern, and Asian routes. The first Comet has suffered several problems in its early service, and BOAC had ordered the Boeing 707. This worked well for the airline on many routes but was too large for these markets and underpowered for hot and high airports.

Photo Flight of DeHavilland Comet 3 Jet Transport
BOAC entered the jet age with the Comet and later returned to it until 1969. Photo: Getty Images

Vickers proposed the VC-10 using parts of the design from the Vickers 1000 and several modifications for better high altitude and hot conditions. The aircraft matched BOAC’s needs well, and it ordered 25 aircraft in 1957. In 1958, it increased this to 35 aircraft with an option for 20 more. At the time, this was one of the largest British aircraft orders to date.

In an attempt to increase sales to other airlines, Vickers also modified the design to offer a Super VC10. This used more powerful engines and extended the fuselage by just over eight meters (taking capacity up to around 210).

Vickers VC10
BOAC was the largest operator of the VC10. Photo: Getty Images

Rear engine quadjet

The VC-10 was designed to meet BOAC’s needs in Africa and the Middle East. Like the 707, it was designed as a quadjet but had more powerful engines. The high, fuselage-mounted engines were also a better choice for rough or dusty runway conditions. Only the VC-10 and the Ilyushin Il-62 have such a design.

It focussed on short-field performance and hot and dry conditions. It used a high T-tail design which increased performance from short runways and had wide flaps and full-span leading-edge wing slats.

Vickers VC10
The VC10 used a high tail and four engines to meet BOAC’s operating demands. Photo: Getty Images

In service in UK and Africa

The VC-10 first flew in April 1964 with BOAC. BOAC merged with other airlines to form British Airways in 1974. It was by far the largest operator, although other UK airlines operated it. British United Airways had four aircraft, with added cargo doors for combined freight used. These passed to British Caledonia after their merger.

And with its design for hot and high environment, a number of other airlines in the Middle East and Africa also operated it. This includes Air Ceylon, Air Malawi, East African Airways, Ghana Airways, Middle East Airlines, Nigeria Airways, and Gulf Air.

Vickers VC10
Vickers VC10 with East African Airways, seen in 1973. Photo: RuthAS via Wikimedia

Several military air forces have also used it, and many of the civilian aircraft moved to the military for extended service. The UK RAF was the largest operator, using it as a transport and a refueling aircraft.

Atlantic record

The VC10 was a reliable workhorse for BOAC and other airlines. But it also held a more glamourous record for many years – the fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by a subsonic jet airliner. In March 1979,  G-ASGC (a Super VC10) flew from New York JFK to Prestwick airport in Scotland in five hours one minute.

This record was not beaten until a British Airways 747 flew from JFK to Heathrow in four hours 56 minutes in 2020 – boosted by the effects of Storm Ciara at the time.

Retirement and preservation

The VC-10 retired from passenger operations mostly by the early 1980s. British Airways (which inherited the VC-10s from BOAC) retired its last VC-10 in 1976 and Super VC-10 in 1981.

Several military operators kept them in service much longer, though. The UK RAF was the largest such operator and the last. It saw use in many conflicts over the years, including the Falklands War, the Gulf War, the war in Afghanistan, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Vickers VC10
The VC10 stayed in service with the UK RAF until 2013. Photo: Chris Lofting via Wikimedia

Its last use was with 101 Squadron as aerial refueling aircraft until 2013. The Airbus Voyager took over this role.

Several aircraft remain preserved on display in museums or airports across the UK. There are also a couple of aircraft in the Middle East. One aircraft, former BOAC registration  G-ASGM, remains in ground running condition at Bruntingthorpe, although there are concerns over its future.

Would you like to share any experiences of the VC10, either in service or in preservation? Feel free to discuss this further in the comments. 

Source : Simple Flying More   

What's Your Reaction?


Next Article

Qantas Preparing To Skip Perth For UK Flights

Today, September 27th, the Qantas Group updated its flying schedule to fit with the reopening plans and latest…

Qantas Preparing To Skip Perth For UK Flights

Today, September 27th, the Qantas Group updated its flying schedule to fit with the reopening plans and latest border assumptions across much of Australia. Assuming vaccination thresholds are reached, this will see international flights gradually restart in late December. However, the airline’s flagship service to London will not be using Perth until at least April 2022. Let’s find out why.

Qantas deploys its Boeing 787-9s on the ultra-long-haul service. Photo: Qantas

Before the crisis, London-Perth was Qantas’ ultra-long-haul service connecting Australia with London. London-bound passengers from various Australian cities would be channeled to Perth on various flights, transit in the Western Australian city, and board a Boeing 787-9. Conversely, travelers from London would board a 787-9 at Heathrow bound for Perth to subsequently connect to the rest of the country.

Western Australia’s restrictions force rerouting

“Australia is expected to have reached National Cabinet’s ‘Phase C’ vaccination threshold of 80%” by late December, Qantas notes. This will be the magic number for the government to permit regularly scheduled international flights again. However, Qantas is emphasizing that it will temporarily reroute its flagship Perth-London service until at least April 2022 “due to the latest WA [Western Australia] border settings and assumptions.”

“At this stage, WA doesn’t intend to open to international travel until sometime next year, so we’ll, unfortunately, have to temporarily move our Perth-London service until at least April 2022.” -Alan Joyce

Stopover Qantas
Qantas is in “detailed discussions” with Darwin. Photo:

What will Qantas use instead of Perth?

According to Qantas, it is in detailed discussions with the NT (The Northern Territory) Government and Darwin Airport. These discussions will evaluate operating the direct London flight from Darwin during this time. Indeed, the airline goes on to say that it “has successfully used Darwin as a hub for its repatriation flights” to various destinations across Asia, Europe, and the Middle East over the past year.

“The discussions for what would be a daily Melbourne-Darwin-London service focus on the logistics of domestic and international transit under the current NT Government Plan for COVID-Management at Stage 3 of the National Plan.” -Qantas

Darwin is the primary choice for Qantas. However, if discussions fall through, then the airline says that it will instead fly the service through Singapore Changi (Melbourne-Singapore-London) instead, until at least April 2022.

A decision on the exact routing is likely to be made within the next two weeks.

qantas 787
The move could be a hit to Perth Airport’s revenues but a win for Darwin if the deal goes through. Photo: Qantas

“We look forward to operating this flight via Perth again when circumstances allow,” CEO Alan Joyce affirms. Perth Airport was contacted by Simple Flying for a comment on the matter, but no response was received at the time of this article’s publication.

Stay informed:  for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

Darwin vs. Singapore – Which is better?

As Executive Traveler points out, there are pros and cons to going with either Darwin or Singapore. Stopping in Singapore risks complications with COVID restrictions and requirements. Cutting out a third country reduces these potential complications. At the same time, however, Singapore Changi is a great airport to stop at, and has the infrastructure in place to serve premium travelers with the presence of a Qantas first class lounge and separate business class lounge.

Conversely, stopping in Darwin reduces restriction requirements to two countries. Choosing this airport would also foster good relations domestically as airport and user fees would continue to “stay local” and support the national economy. The major drawback for travelers is the lack of premium lounges, with just a single Qantas Club lounge located at the airport’s domestic section.

What do you think of this move? Would you prefer to transit in Darwin or Singapore? Let us know in the comments section.

Source : Simple Flying More   

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.